Raw milk not a ‘most dangerous’ food

Letter writer has concerns about an editorial on raw milk.

Published on December 12, 2013 10:11AM

I have been a subscriber to the Capital Press for over 20 years. While I don’t agree with everything I read in the editorial section, this is the first time I have written to give an alternative take on an issue.

Most of your editorial on raw milk made sense to me, a raw milk producer for practically as long as I have subscribed to your newspaper. The part I particularly objected to was your statement that “We think unpasteurized milk and products made from it are inherently dangerous.” More precisely, I would like to point out that there are lots of raw foods we eat regularly that have some level of danger, but people insist on singling out this particular raw food as a major threat.

CBS medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton lists the following as the 10 most dangerous foods to eat, the top most being the most dangerous: leafy greens, eggs, tuna, oysters, potatoes, cheese, ice cream, tomatoes, sprouts and berries.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s list is almost identical.

What I don’t understand is why these foods are so rarely talked about, even when they get in the news for sickening or killing people. We probably all remember that someone died and several were ill from eating raw strawberries in Oregon a couple years ago. Deer that came on the property had E. coli that infected and sickened several people, besides the one death.

I know that more people probably eat berries than raw milk, but Number 4 is oysters and I know lots of people who have never eaten one oyster, yet it still made it to the Top 10.

It is a lot easier to make sure milk is kept clean than berries or greens, and it bothers me when people are cavalier in the diligence necessary to providing clean milk, because it gives all producers a bad name. I also don’t understand when I call the Oregon Department of Agriculture for information and am told they do not want me offering pasteurized milk to my customers, even when I explain that I have a manufactured milk pasteurizer from NASCO that is easy to calibrate and has an excellent digital thermometer. When I went to an Extension event in Lebanon to do a booth on cheesemaking I had a chance to talk to a woman from the Oregon State University dairy department and I asked if they would please do a workshop on safe milking techniques for the many small farmers interested in dairying. The answer was a quick “no,” and the reason, encapsulated, went like this: “It would only encourage more people to do it.” As if it were a dangerous practice, like jumping off your barn with a homemade parachute.

This is a legal product to offer and it is raw. Probably all raw foods have some danger involved. People who sell leafy greens and berries could be more careful, too, not just the dairy folks. A deer fence would go a long way. Of course, many would say — well, that would be too expensive. As expensive as the price of a good milk cow, her barn, her feed, brucellosis vaccination, her tuberculosis test, her milking equipment (I use a stainless steel bucket on an electric machine, SS filter and a thorough wash first) and her fence? I don’t think so.

However, it is not other producers of raw food I take issue with. People will make their choices and I don’t boil my lettuce either, nor my strawberries. I just don’t like being singled out. If you want to say in your opinion piece that “We don’t think people should eat raw food,” fine. Just please don’t say mine is worse than the top 10 dangerous foods.

Jude Sandberg


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